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Iraqi Cleric Linked to Basra Protests Killed, Concerns Resurfaced

Iraqi Cleric Linked to Basra Protests Killed, Concerns Resurfaced

Monday, 19 November, 2018 - 08:30
Baghdad- Asharq Al-Awsat
Hundreds of Basra residents mourned a Muslim cleric on Sunday who police said was killed outside his home after he suggested that protesters should take up arms over poor public services in the city.

An unidentified armed group assassinated Sheikh Wissam al-Ghrawi Saturday, a prominent figure in demonstrations demanding clean water and reliable electricity in the southern Iraqi city. Basra province generates more than 90 percent of Iraq's oil exports but suffers from contaminated drinking water and regular blackouts.

Activists fear that this incident would be an episode in a series of assassinations, conjuring memories of similar assassinations of activists in Basra during the past months.

Ghrawi is at least the second activist to be killed in what appeared to be a targeted assassination since protests swept Basra last summer. One of the organizers, Soad al-Ali, was killed by a gunman in September, after protesters began directing their ire toward Iran, which they saw as exerting undue influence over national politics.

Basra police say Ghrawi was shot and killed in front of his house in the city center by unknown assailants late Saturday.

He was filmed at a protest on Friday saying clerics would issue a fatwa within days on taking up arms. The video was shared widely on Iraqi social media.

Civil activist Nael al-Zamil told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Ghrawi’s name was designated on a list of activists to be assassinated by militias, this pushed him to flee to Iran then he was killed shortly after his return. Zamil says that similar assassinations are likely in the coming period, especially after the failure of militias and parties in getting to activists through the judiciary.

The federal government has dropped all complaints filed against activists, except for the individual complaint filed by the leader of Harakat Thar' Allah (HTA), Yusuf Sanawi against activists whom he accuses of standing behind burning the party’s headquarters.

Militias and Islamic parties in Basra accuse a group of activists in standing behind burning its headquarters and the Iranian consulate at the beginning of September.

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